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Movie Review: "Ray"

Run, run, run, RUN to see this film. If you like movies, do NOT miss this, even if you don't think you like Ray Charles' music -- and really, who doesn't? Charles' songs like "Hit The Road, Jack", "Georgia On My Mind", "What'd I Say?", there are so many others, are the standards of several generations.

This movie will be nominated for Best Picture, no question about it, and Jamie Foxx, who was also terrific in "Collateral", for Best Actor, though I wouldn't call this "acting".

Foxx becomes Ray Charles. Yes, it's not Foxx singing -- it's lipsyncing to Charles himself, who was involved in the production of this film all the way -- but you forget about this quickly as Foxx has Charles absolutely nailed. The mannerisms, the body movements, and when you consider that he had to do much of the performance wearing dark glasses and/or with his eyes tightly shut, it becomes even more amazing.

The movie doesn't pull any punches, either. This is no sanitized biopic -- it deals directly with Charles' womanizing and heroin addiction, and portrays his wife Della Bea (Kerry Washington) as exactly who she was -- someone who stood by him no matter what, even when he ignored his family, spending months at a time on the road.

I almost laughed when I saw Curtis Armstrong, most famous for the "Revenge of the Nerds" series, in the serious role of Ahmet Ertegun, chairman of Atlantic Records, who gave Charles his first chance (and who, incidentally, at age 81 is still head of Atlantic today), but he's absolutely perfect for the part.

There's a parallel story here, which shows you how he lost his sight when young, how his mother (Sharon Warren, in her first feature film role, and she could get a supporting actress nomination for this powerful performance) pushed him to learn how to do things though blind (he never uses a cane or dog in the movie, nor in life), and how he witnesses, at age 5, the accidental drowning of his younger brother, and the film tries to show how this event perhaps led him to his life of drug abuse and sexual dalliance, and only when he accepts the fact that the drowning wasn't his fault, could he break the addictions.

The music makes the film and I had absolutely no trouble with the lipsyncing -- you truly believe you are seeing Ray Charles, not an actor. There's a brief scene where you see Charles refuse to play a segregated gig in Georgia, and as a result is barred by the Georgia legislature from ever playing there -- but later, this is shown to be redeemed, and I won't spoil it by telling you how, but it gave me goosebumps.

This is the first great film of the holiday film season. Do NOT miss it.

AYRating: ****